+
monarchs back in CA

Monarchs during mating season.

In 2020, the number of monarch butterflies counted at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum’s Monarch Sanctuary in Monterey, California, was zero. In 2021, only one lone butterfly was seen.

Now, in 2022, the museum has announced that a seemingly miraculous 3,823 butterflies were counted during their seasonal migration. And across the entire West Coast, more than 247,000 monarchs have been spotted, a number not seen since 2016.

The incredible comeback has experts baffled and conservationists in awe. And while the reason behind it remains somewhat of a mystery, it’s a testament to the huge positive impact to be had when nature’s timing is combined with collective human effort.

Back in late July 2022, the monarch butterfly was declared endangered, with scientists estimating a drop in population somewhere between 20% and 90% over the last several decades.

Normally, as temperatures cool during winter, thousands—and before 1990, millions—of amber-colored wings can be seen fluttering across the sky as the insects travel thousands of miles across North America to California and Mexico. Along the way, they’ll lay their eggs in milkweed plants, which is the only thing that monarch caterpillars will eat (yes, even babies of the animal kingdom are picky eaters). The relationship between milkweeds and monarchs is so integral that another name for a monarch is the “milkweed butterfly.”

However, milkweed has been rapidly disappearing since the 1990s, namely due to the use of herbicides. This, coupled with climate change leading to overwintering—meaning that the butterflies delay reproduction to survive winter—results in the abysmal amount of sightings in 2020. Yet still, this year saw a 35% increase.

The reason behind such a big population boom almost seems like divine intervention. So many things had to line up that, in an interview with PBS, Louie Yang, insect ecologist at University of California, Davis, attributed the surge to a “series of fortunate events.” One of those events was that temperatures and rainfall levels were at just the rights levels at the right time, leading to more milkweed blooms just as surviving monarchs reemerged from overwintering.

Some experts even speculate that the miracle might have been born out of catastrophe. Pacific Grove park docent and retired entomologist Paul Meredith suggested to PBS that 2019’s wildfires prepared the ground for an “extraordinary wildflower season,” thus giving a boost to migrating adult monarchs this season.

A monarch butterfly.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

While the reason behind the recent butterfly increase has yet to be thoroughly researched, there are definitive ways to help. As KSBW reports, this includes planting native milkweeds about 5-10 miles from an overwintering site, planting native nectar plants (which adult monarchs eat) and refraining from pesticide use. In addition, it’s crucial to support legislation that protects habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Monarchs aren’t the only butterflies to make a resurgence thanks to conservation efforts. In the U.K., 750 large blue butterflies were discovered in August 2020 after being declared extinct in Britain in 1979. Again, it took recovering a natural habitat and food source—these British butterflies appropriately required thyme and marjoram, rather than milkweed. They also prefer tea to coffee, so I’m told.

This bit of good news is certainly worth sharing, and hopefully with awareness we can all help these gorgeous creatures spread their wings.

All photos courtesy of Albertsons
True

Summer is officially over, which means we’re looking for any excuse to get together and watch a game or grill outside in the cooling temperatures.

The thing about hosting though is figuring out what to feed your guests—especially with rising prices all around. And frankly, everyone is sick of pizza.

Keep ReadingShow less

Celine Dion spoke directly to her fans on social media.

Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.

In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.

"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."

Keep ReadingShow less

A tiger at the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary and a mugshot of Joe Exotic from Santa Rosa County Jail.

Netflix’s “Tiger King” will go down in history as the collective distraction that helped America get through the dark, depressing days of early COVID-19 lockdowns. The show followed the true story of the feud between private zoo owner Joe Exotic, the self-described “gay, gun-carrying, redneck with a mullet,” and Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue.

Exotic is currently serving out a 21-year prison sentence for animal rights abuses and hiring someone to kill Baskin.

The show was a raucous look inside the world of big cat owners and brought a lot of attention to the animal abuse that runs rampant in the industry. The light it shed on the industry was so bright it led Congress to take action. The Senate unanimously passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 6. The House had already passed the bill in July.

The White House has signaled that President Biden will sign the bill into law.

Keep ReadingShow less

Tenacious D performs at the Rock in Pott festival.

The medley that closes out the second side of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is one of the most impressive displays of musicianship in the band’s storied career. It also provided the perfect send-off before the band’s official breakup months later, ending with the lyrics, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In 1969, “Abbey Road” was the last record the group made together, although “Let it Be,” recorded earlier that year, was released in 1970.

At first, the medley was just a clever way for the band to use a handful of half-finished tunes, but when it came together it was a rousing, grandiose affair.

Arranged by Paul McCartney and producer George Martin, the medley weaves together five songs written by McCartney, "You Never Give Me Your Money," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight” and "The End," and three by John Lennon, “Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."

Fifteen seconds after the medley and the album’s conclusion, there is a surprise treat, McCartney’s 22-second “Her Majesty,” which wound up on the record as an accident.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass, collectively known as Tenacious D, recently reimagined two of the songs in the medley, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "The End," for acoustic guitars for a performance on SiriusXM's Octane Channel. Like everything with Tenacious D, it showed off the duo’s impressive musical chops as well as their fantastic sense of humor.

The truncated version of the medley was also a wonderful tribute to the incredible work the Beatles did 53 years ago.

Warning: This video contains NSFW language.

Firmbee/Canva

Google's 2022 Year in Search report shows what trended this year.

There's a lot you can tell about a person by their search history (unless they're a murder-mystery writer, in which case no one should jump to conclusions). And our search habits on the whole can tell us a lot about ourselves as a collective as well.

For better or for worse, what we look up on the internet is an indicator of what we care about, and Google's Year in Search report gives us some insight into what we cared about this past year.

There are reports for different countries as well as a global report. Let's start with what my fellow Americans looked up, shall we?

Keep ReadingShow less